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tics, and some deviation from the simplicity of Grecian poets, is no loss to the drama. Shakespeare, however, by having known them, and by having adhered to them in some degree, would have been less irregular and incoherent. In like manner, by having been better acquainted with ancient history, he would not have represented Alexander the Great as existing prior to the age of Coriolanus; 'nor would he have represented the Roman matrons, in the days of Menenius Agrippa, as employing themselves in sewing cambric; nor would he have mentioned the tribunes of the Roman people as judges in the courts of justice, or even at great pains to lower the price of coals.
Yet, glaring as these faults may appear, poets of no small reputation have been so far seduced, by the example of Shakespeare coinciding with the taste of the times, that they have imitated, or at least not avoided, the very grossest of his enormities. Otway and Southern are remarkable instances. It , may, therefore, be of service to the improvement of fine writing, not only to illustrate the great merits of Shakespeare, and to shew in what manner his delineations of human nature assist the philosopher ; but also with candour, and the deference due to his superior genius, to point out his de fects, and endeavour to trace their causes In this investigation, the train of thought, independent of digression or illustration, is according to the following arrangement.'
As the works of imagination consist of parts, the pleasure they yield is the effect of those parts united in one design. This
be felt; the relations of inferior component parts may be discerned ; and their nature may be known. Taste is perfect, when sensibility, discernment, and knowledge are united. Yet, they are not indispensably united in the man of poetic invention. He must possess sensibility; but he may want knowledge and discernment. He will thus be liable to error.
Guided solely by feeling, his judgment will be unsteady; he will, at periods of languor, become the slave of authority, or be seduced by unexamined maxims. Shakespeare was in this situation. Endowed with genius, he pos
sessed all the taste that depended on feeling. But, unimproved by the discernment of the philosophical, or the knowledge of the learned critic, his sensibility was exposed to perversion. He was misled by the general maxim that required him to “ follow na
He observed the rule in a limited
He copied the reality of external things; but disregarded that conception of excellence which seems inherent in the human mind. The rule, in its extended acceptation, requires that objects intended to please, and interest the heart, should produce their effect by corresponding, or consonant feelings. Now, this cannot be attained by representing objects as they appear. In every interesting representation, features and tints must be added to the reality ; features and tints which it actually possesses, must be concealed. The greatest blemishes in Shakespeare arose from his noti attending to this important rule; and not preserving in his tragedies the proper fone of the work. Henge the frequent and unbecoming mixtúde of meanness and dignity in his expression; of the serious and ludicrous in his
representation. His other faults are of less importance; and are charged to his want of sufficient knowledge, or care in correcting. In a word, though his merits far surpass those of every other dramatic writer, and may even apologize for his faults; yet, since the ardour of admiration may lead ingenious men to overlook, or imitate his imperfections, it may be of some service, “ to point “ them out, and endeavour to trace their * causes.
NO poetical writer among the moderns has afforded more employment to critics and commentators than Shakespeare. As he wrote while the manners, no less than the language of his countrymen were very different from what they are at present; and as he is reported to have been very careless about the fate of his performances after they were given to the public, he is become in many instances obscure, and almost unin